Pat Novak, for Hire, is an old-time radio detective drama series which originally aired from 1946-1948, and revived in 1949. It started as a West Coast regional produced program at KGO in San Francisco. This regional version originally starred Jack Webb in the title role, with scripts by his roommate Richard L. Breen. When Webb and Breen moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles, Webb was replaced by Ben Morris, and Breen by Gil Doud. Meanwhile in LA, Webb and Breen, joined by Director William P. Rousseau, would work on an extremely similar nationwide series, Johnny Madero, Pier 23, for the Mutual network. Webb would then star in Jeff Regan, Investigator until December, 1948. By 1949, a year after the end of the San Francisco run, Jack Webb resumed the Novak role, and Breen his duties as scriptwriter, this time for a national audience on ABC.
Pat Novak, for Hire is set on the San Francisco, California waterfront and depicts the city Pat Novak knows - a dark, rough place where the main goal is survival. Pat Novak is not a detective by trade. He owns a boat shop on Pier 19 where he rents out boats and does odd jobs to make money.
The series is popular among fans for its fast-paced, hard-boiled dialogue and action and witty one-liners. Each episode of the programs, especially with Jack Webb, follows the same basic formula; a foghorn sounds and Novak's footsteps are heard walking down the pier. He then pauses and begins with the line "Sure, I'm Pat Novak . . . for hire". The intro theme would start, during which Pat gives a monologue about the troubles along the waterfront and his job renting boats. Jack Webb narrates the story as well as playing Novak. He is cynical, and throws off lines such as "Around here a set of morals won't cause any more stir than Mother's Day in an orphanage ". He then introduces the trouble in which he finds himself this week. The dialogue is a continuous stream of similes typically found in pulp fiction. In So Long, Dixie Gillian, Novak describes a lady entering his show this way: "She sauntered in, moving slowly from side to side like a hundred and eighteen pounds of warm smoke. Her voice was alright, too. It reminded you of a furnace full of marshmallows."
Typically, a person unknown to Novak asks him to do an unusual or risky job, or he is suspicious because it sounds too easy. But Novak reluctantly accepts and quickly finds himself in hot water in the form of an unexplained dead body. Sultry females are usually involved. Police Inspector Hellman (played by Raymond Burr) arrives on the scene and pins the murder on Novak. With only circumstantial evidence to go on, Hellman promises to haul Novak in the next day for the crime. The rapid, staccato dialogue between Webb & Burr is typical of hardboiled fiction and is often humorous. Pat uses the time to try to solve the case. He usually employs the help of his friend Jocko Madigan (played by Tudor Owen). Jocko is an ex-doctor and a drunk, and is typically found at some dive bar. When Patsy, as he is called, asks for his help, Jocko launches a long-winded philosophical diatribe, full of witty and funny remarks, until Novak cuts him off. Reluctantly, Jocko helps Novak.
Jocko and Novak unravel the case and Hellman makes the arrest. Finally, we hear the foghorn and Novak's footsteps on the pier again before Novak spells out the details of the case for us, which is often rather complicated and requires the explanation. At the end, Novak informs us that "Hellman asked only one question", which Novak answers with a clever retort.
Music was supplied by Basil Adlam. Announcers included Raymond Burr, George Fenneman, Hal Gibney, and William Conrad. Pat Novak would run until June 26, 1949. Part of the reason for the end of the run was that three weeks earlier, Jack Webb had started another show, which you may have heard of. It was called Dragnet.
Information for this synopsis was taken from Digital Deli Too dot com, from John Dunning's Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, and from Wikipedia.
OTRR Certification Information:
Series Name: Pat Novak, for Hire Certification Status: OTRR Certified Complete Certification Date: March 1, 2017 Certification Version: Version 1 Number of CDs: 1
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August 3, 2017 Subject:
Same Again, Please
Another great Jack Webb series, and the SPM rate (Similes Per Minute) is off the charts!
If anyone's wondering why the second OTRR Pat Novak, so was I, so I downloaded this second one. Even though it was the same size zip file, I thought it may have corrected some of the audio errors, like the digital 'stuttering' in the Joe Candono episode, but no such luck.
If anyone can find a difference between these two OTRR Pat Novaks, please let us know. Otherwise, save your bandwidth; if you've got the first one, you've got the second one.